Warmer temperatures mean summer is approaching, but to some Ahwatukee Foothills kids it may mean more opportunity to hang out with friends past the 10 p.m. curfew.

"(Curfew laws) are there to protect the child because there's really no good reason for anybody younger than 15 to be out past 10 o'clock in the evening," said Sgt. Scott McCauley of the Phoenix Police Department.

Under the Phoenix City Code, curfew hours for those 15 years and younger are between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., while those who are 16 to 17 years old have a set curfew from 12 to 5 a.m.

McCauley said that curfew violations are not a pressing issue in Ahwatukee, but it can lead to more serious crimes.

"Curfew is not one of those things that we actively go out and target specifically," he said. "It's usually a sideline issue to another call we're responding to."

McCauley said that in the large community of Club West, there had only been one curfew violation in the past year.

"Ahwatukee is not suffering at all." McCauley said.

However, the area in the South Mountain Precinct that has seen the most curfew violations over the years is the AMC Ahwatukee 24 movie theater at Ray Road and 48th Street, he said.

To prevent juvenile crimes, McCauley said off-duty officers patrol the area for security purposes.

He said seeing an officer in uniform, even if the officer is not on active duty, deters underage kids from causing problems with property owners.

The time that the police see the most instances of curfew violations is on the weekends when school is in session, McCauley said.

When kids are in school, they network easier and the word spreads on where they will hang out, he said.

The South Mountain Precinct has come a long way in the last 15 years, said McCauley, adding that what used to be an area patrolled by only two officers is now patrolled by 61 officers who are housed in the Ahwatukee substation.

"When people pick up the phone and dial 911, they want to make sure they see a police officer there on their front door step" he said. "And that's what we've done."

Due to budget cuts, the Ahwatukee Foothills Crime Prevention Task Force no longer funds those programs that allowed Juvenile Diversion Officers to specifically target curfew violators, McCauley said.

Net Squad Officer Tom Ferguson of the Neighborhood Enforcement Team said that although the program ended nearly three years ago, the curfew is still enforced among officers.

"(Curfew) is something that needs maintenance all the time, otherwise it keeps coming back and the kids are back out," Ferguson said.

McCauley advises parents with underage children to stay informed on their children's whereabouts and, most importantly, know who they are with.

"Who they hang out with is a good indicator of what they could potentially be doing when they're not around their parents," he said. "People kids hang out with have a good deal of influence over their behavior, good or bad."

Ahwatukee resident Sue Kotnik said that she is always aware of where her 16-year-old son is at all times and that she is well aware of with whom he hangs out with.

"I worry about him coming home after midnight because I worry about other people on the road, potentially drunk drivers." she said.

The best way parents can prevent their kids from violating curfew and committing other crimes is to spend time with them, McCauley said.

"If it means spending a few minutes with your children each day, or a couple hours every week, there's something to be said for that," he said. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

• Jessica Slapke is a student at The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


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